cover image Gabriella's Song

Gabriella's Song

Candace Fleming. Atheneum Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80973-6

Fleming's (Madame Lagrande and Her So High to the Sky Uproarious Pompadour) tale of an Italian girl with a song in her heart, accompanied by Potter's (Mr. Semolina-Semolinas) delicate renderings of Venetian life, has a refreshing, innocent simplicity. Opening with views of famous landmarks (the Piazza San Marco, the Grand Canal, St. Mark's Cathedral), the book introduces young Gabriella Menza, for whom Venice is also the city of music. Walking home from the marketplace, Gabriella hears ""the slap-slap of drying laundry; the flap-flap of pigeon wings... and the ting-aling-ling of church bells."" Her mother's beckoning voice joins the growing chorus and inspires the girl's own tune. Thus begins a musical chain reaction in which the tune makes a baker happy and a widow sad, prompts a gondolier to sing of love and, finally, inspires a blocked composer to write music again. Potter's joyous drawings of the city's cobbled streets, bridges and piazzas are colored in the city's luxuriant earth tones and changing sea shades, while her caricatured figures and off-kilter perspectives, in full-page and vignette illustrations, are reminiscent of folk art. Music lovers, especially, will be inspired by Fleming and Potter's passionate depiction of the vibrant city that gave birth to opera, filled with concertos, arias and tunes that come from the heart. Ages 3-8. (Oct.)